Only one stop on the 7 or the E train from Midtown, this spot, although seldom heard of or talked about, has the potential to become NYC’s best kept secret. Of course, once it reaches that potential, the secret will certainly be out, but in the meantime, Long Island City waivers between industrial parkways, arty-Williamsburg-esque blocks, and sterile high-rise living. Recently nicknamed LIC in an effort to distance the neighborhood from the less-appealing landmass that it’s bound to, Long Island City appears to be of two minds, and unfortunately it seems the development of this neighborhood has been left in the hands of outsiders who are undedicated to building a vibrant community but rather keen on taking advantage of previously overlooked, prime real estate. With the proximity of ever-improving Greenpoint, the arrival of MoMa PS1, the opening of beer gardens and a weekly flea market, the relatively cheap rent, and the short subway ride to Midtown, LIC, with the help of its passionate, long-term residents, could follow the path of Williamsburg—encouraging young professionals to move in, restaurants and bars to open, and eventually the cultivation of a proud and loyal community. Instead, investors have chosen to build an ever-expanding gleaming wall of generic high-rises that separate the main drag and normal residential blocks from the river and spectacular view of NYC’s skyline. The narrow streets that weave between these mismatched apartment complexes feel cavernous and ring with the sound of construction rather than amiable activity. The buildings feel empty, and yet more are being built, and the growth seems to be occurring so quickly that no one has taken the time to properly name new constructions. Without any famous athletes from the neighborhood, or at least one stellar intramural star, the sports field is uninspiringly called: Sports Field.
This trend was seen throughout the neighborhood: LIC Bar, LIC Market, and even LIC School. The effect leads one to believe that there is only one bar, one market, one school, which is certainly not the case.
Although I’m not rushing to become a resident, LIC is completely convenient and yet curiously removed from the turmoil of Manhattan, making it a good destination for a summer “staycation” for those looking to enjoy a quiet afternoon. Start your trip by grabbing brunch at LIC Market, a quaint café serving fresh ingredients without a wait (try finding that in Manhattan) (21-52 44th Drive, http://licmarket.com/).
A quick walk from the E train, the inviting décor and friendly staff at LIC Market make this an enjoyable brunch spot, and the food quite perfect for what I like to call a “girly brunch” (think Mason jars and mimosas). If you’re looking for a more traditional breakfast, head to close-by Sage General Store for their famous “Bacon Brunch” (24-20 Jackson Ave., http://sagegeneralstore.com/).
From LIC Market, it is a short walk to MoMa PS1, an auxiliary of the Museum of Modern Art situated in old elementary school (so old that you’ll notice separate entrances for girls and boys around the backside of the building).
You may want to put-off your visit to MoMa PS 1 until later in the day as the museum hosts an outdoor music series called Warm Up through September from 3 to 9 PM for $15 entry fee (22-25 Jackson Ave, http://www.momaps1.org/). If you’re too early for the party, head to 5 Pointz—a must-see and entirely worth the trip to LIC (45-46 Davis Street, http://5ptz.com/).
A block-sized building covered in graffiti art, 5 Pointz is one of the few spots where permits are granted for graffiti artists from around the world to make their mark. You’ll get to see these normally nocturnal artists at work, and these artists are adept at much more than the unreadable tag.
What’s even more thrilling is that the masterpieces at 5 Pointz are always changing, and so each visit is unique. Unfortunately, there are plans to tear the building down to build…guess what?…luxury condominiums, so be sure to visit soon or get involved in the efforts to make the sight a landmark.
From 5 Pointz, stroll over to the LIC Flea & Food (46th and 5th street, http://licflea.com/).
Grab a Lizzmonade (creatively flavored lemonade with your choice of fresh fruit combinations, http://lizzmonade.com/) and browse the stands—my favorites were a stall filled with glittering chandeliers and Wink & Flip’s second location (you’ll also find them at the Hester Street Fair) where you can find trendy and affordable jewelry (who knew knuckle rings were a thing now!). Although the shopping may be similar to other fleas, the perk of LIC Flea & Food is the space—you won’t be jostled around or constantly bumped into, which on a hot day, can be a major relief.
After the flea, weave your way through the construction and high rises and on over to the river for some R&R and a spectacular view of Manhattan. Gantry Plaza State Park is stocked with comfortable loungers, Adirondack chairs, and even hammocks, and the best part is—you’ll actually be able to nab a seat! Even better is that unlike Manhattan’s river parks, Gantry is far from any major highway or high-traffic street. Allow the silence sink-in while you watch freighters slip by on the East River and the commotion of Manhattan from afar.
If the giant Pepsi sign begins to taunt and you’re ready for a refreshment of a harder nature, walk over to the aptly-named LIC Bar (they really don’t mess around in this neighborhood) to grab a pint and a seat on their large patio (45-58 Vernon Blvd, http://www.licbar.com/). If you’ve worked up an appetite swinging on the hammocks at Gantry, stop in the Flea & Food and grab some fare before heading to the bar (they allow outside food). The laid-back crowd at LIC Bar is a nice mix between old and young with a refreshingly hipster/bro-free feel.
If you’re looking to be entertained, head to The Creek & the Cave’s free amateur comedy hour instead, held on Saturdays at 4 pm (10-93 Jackson Ave, http://thecreekandthecave.com/). Or if you’ve had enough of your quiet, lazy stroll through LIC, head on back to MoMa PS1’s Warm Up and get your groove on.